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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June, 2005, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Inquiry into new Thames crossing
Artist's impression of the Thames Gateway Bridge
The bridge could be completed in 2012
Plans for a 455m bridge, seen as crucial to one of the biggest regeneration schemes in the UK, go before a public inquiry on Tuesday.

The six-lane Thames Gateway toll bridge linking Newham and Greenwich is a key part of east London's development.

Over the next 20 years there are proposals to effectively create a new city stretching out to Kent and Essex.

But some say the bridge will bring more pollution and traffic and say consultation was not thorough enough.

There are only four traffic crossings to the east of Tower Bridge, while central London has eight bridges and there are 16 to the west between Chelsea Bridge and the M25.

Map showing the location of the proposed bridge
The bridge will link Beckton with Thamesmead at Gallions Reach
The crossing is designed to have two lanes in either direction for cars and commercial vehicles
It will also have separate lanes, located on the western side of the bridge for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists
The proposed toll is 1 for local car users and 2 for others. Exemptions similar to the congestion charge will apply
The bridge could be upgraded to accommodate Dockland Light Railway or trams in the future

The Thames Gateway bridge would include bus lanes and is designed to take trams and could be open by 2012.

Steven Joseph of the Thames Gateway London Partnership said the bridge was vital for regeneration of the 40-mile wide area - claimed to be the largest area of growth in the UK.

"Our own independent experts say that this will generate at least 17,000 jobs north and south of the river," he said.

He added two of the six lanes would be used by pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

But one report, by transport expert Professor Phil Goodwin, suggested that if the bridge was built, there would be a massive increase in traffic on some roads in south-east London.

Campaigners say it will damage the environment with traffic and pollution and say the consultation process was not democratic.

Stephen Wise from the Action Group Against the Bridge, said: "Only about 1% of the questionnaires sent out were returned.

"And the questionnaire asked if they were in favour of a bridge - not a six-lane super-highway."

The initial costs will be put up by a private company which will recoup the funds through tolls and government funding.

Greenwich and Newham councils have granted the bridge planning permission, but want assurances residents will pay a reduced toll and construction will create jobs.

The inquiry is being held at Charlton Athletic's ground in south-east London and is expected to last five weeks.

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